The TWQ Interview series conducted by editor Charlotte Hays has been one of our more popular features. A few selections:
I Told You So!
TWQ: You have been very critical of the feminist view of rape. They seem to think it’s rape if somebody looks at you crossways. Is this going to change because of the Clinton scandals?
PAGLIA: Unfortunately, this has led many other people to say, as Michael Crichton did in his recent Playboy interview, “Feminism is dead.” That’s a disaster! That’s the ultimate damage inflicted by the hypocrisy of the feminist establishment. Feminism is not dead, but the word “feminism” has become very tarred because of these selfish women who seem to think that all women are somehow pro-choice members of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Just recently, Gloria Steinem opened her mouth again and stated that “Mrs. Dole does not speak for women.” And I thought, “After all this time, Gloria Steinem! Your views do not speak for all women either! Not all women are of your particular social elite Manhattan clique!” So I think we’re beginning all over again.
PAGLIA: [Hillary] is not a lesbian. . . . She loves eunuch geek men.
TWQ: Like who?
PAGLIA: Oh my God, look at them all! Sidney Blumenthal, Ira Magaziner, Harold Ickes-they all look alike. They are all weird Ichabod Crane men, all high IQ men who have no natural virility, okay? It’s really weird. She loves to have her little cabals with them.
The Den Mother of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
TWQ: After the Clintons, do you find the Bush administration boring?
GOLDBERG: Listen, after the Clinton administration, World War III would be boring. I started in politics with Kennedy, and those were excruciatingly exciting days because the Kennedys were so glamorous. Though she was a bit dim, Jackie dressed beautifully, looked beautiful, and entertained like nothing we had ever seen. Then it was a vast wasteland for years and years and years and years. And then came the Clintons. We had a different kind of excitement with the Clintons. It was trailer trash excitement. Every day there was something outrageous. By that time, I was in the sort of semi-media business as an agent handling writers. And, I mean, I knew good copy. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t have to read anything except the Clinton stuff, and I had a day’s work done.
Am I a Feminist?
TWQ: Elaine Showalter has called you a “feminist intellectual.” You also have been called a “right wing warrior” in the culture wars. How do you feel about those two characterizations?
CHENEY: Well, it sounds to me like the first is an approving description and the second isn’t, so I would start there. I don’t mind being labeled a “feminist intellectual” as long as I get a chance to define what I mean by feminism, which has to do with recovering the story of what women have accomplished and lived through, not just in our society but around the world. If it means being convinced that women should have equal opportunities to achieve in their lives, if it means believing firmly that women should be able to make choices about family and career, if that is what it means, then I am happy to be called a feminist. If, on the other hand, it means the whole menu of orthodoxies that have become attached to the feminist movement-i.e., you can’t be pro-life; you can’t like Clarence Thomas; you can’t be a Republican-then it is an inaccurate description. And the last one I don’t like much-just because it sounds like they are trying to insult me.
Is Manliness Really Back in Favor?
Anthropologist Lionel Tiger
TWQ: What else would have to happen to restore masculinity?
TIGER: If we look at what people search for in mates, we see that men are very interested in the female complexion. They don’t know it but it’s probably because complexion is, in fact, a very good indicator of health and hence possible fertility. It’s small wonder that women spend immense amounts of money on carbon derivatives, which they put on their faces. That’s one side of it; on the other side, women look to men who will be able to provide them decent lives and are reliable.
There’s some intriguing material coming out of various studies being done in Austria and Germany, which are tentative as yet, but they’re revealing. It turns out that when women are ovulating, they tend to choose men who are good providers. And, believe it or not, this can be done by sniffing T-shirts men have been wearing. It sounds creepy but women can, through smell, identify men who are healthy and likely to be robust providers. In the infertile parts of their menstrual cycle, they chose the T-shirts of he-men who will bounce them around and walk off after they’ve had sex with them-you know, completely undesirable men.
Pillars of Civilization
Scholar Jacques Barzun
TWQ: Why have we turned against the glorious achievement that is Western civilization?
BARZUN: The hostility to Western civilization is due to several types of feeling. One is utopian: the defects of present-day society are attributed to the aims and ideas of the Western world. Another is historical: the “crimes” of the past-slavery, colonization, and so on. These are taken to be uniquely western and unparalleled. For example, the American Indians are “massacred” by the Europeans. That the Indian tribes massacred one another and that some had slaves is forgotten. A third attitude arises from boredom with the past and the desire to blot it out altogether. Finally, there is the attraction of the unfamiliar. The ways, the religions of the Far East seem fresh and delightful, especially when they contradict the western. And to top it all, the yearning to belong to a small cozy group with special customs and a separate language makes the western creation of the nation-state look oppressive. This last tendency is one of the recurrent themes of the West that I call in my book Primitivism.
TWQ: I was fascinated with the idea in your book that during the Renaissance the artist was to be virtuous. It seems to me we’ve done a complete flip-flop, and today artists are not supposed to be virtuous.
BARZUN: Oh, no. They’re supposed to be the opposite in order to be interesting. (Chuckle.) It’s a complex situation. Round about the middle or the early part of the nineteenth century, the artist became very important and as a result of that he was the object of study and of biography. And, it was found that he was not necessarily a good man or woman. He had foibles, he had vices, he was at odds with society, and it became a kind of myth that the great genius must be cantankerous and never pay his debts, be a womanizer, and all that sort of thing. There was just enough biographical evidence to suggest that this often happened. But what was not seen was that one of the causes of his being at odds with society was the fact that the artist had been thrown to the wolves, namely, the general public. Up to nearly the end of the eighteenth century, the artist had a patron, and the patron looked after him, and since he was looked after, he behaved a good deal better.
TWQ: What do you think about Attorney General John Ashcroft?
Hentoff: I think he is utterly sincere. What was it that Justice Brandeis said-that we have most to fear from people who are sincere but without understanding, passionate but without understanding. Ashcroft has never been known to have much concern for civil liberties. As the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, he is contemptuous of the Constitution. I think he is utterly honest in what he’s doing; he just happens to be ignorant. And that should get the FBI adding to my file.
Inside the Boxing Ring
TWQ: During the high point of the Elian Gonzalez uproar, you almost got the feeling from the media that the United States would be bad for Elian.
O’BEIRNE: Elian goes back, and he is not Juan Miguel’s child, he belongs to the regime. Now the poor little guy is a hero of the Revolution. I often thought how different it might have been, had the extended family in Miami been composed of two lesbians who were taking care of Elian. Sort of a dilemma. Do you take him away from the lesbian couple in Miami to send him back to a man? And I bet Juan Miguel smokes. Don’t they appreciate that Janet Reno is sending him back to a father who smokes?